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County hires new road manager

Courtland native will take over following Lygunnah Bean’s retirement this month

After a six-month search for a new road manager, the Panola County Board of Supervisors last week appointed Courtland native Bruce Cook to the position. He will assume his new duties July 1, following the official retirement of Lygunnah Bean at the end of this month.

Bean had given supervisors notice in the fall of 2019 that he intended to retire soon, and the board had just begun the application process when the coronavirus pandemic disrupted most of regular county business.

After extending the deadline for applications and interviewing multiple candidates, the board voted 3-1 to hire Cook. The dissenting vote came from District 1 supervisor James Birge. District 2 supervisor Earl Burdette was out of town and missed the vote.

Supervisors Cole Flint, John Thomas, and Chad Weaver voted to hire Cook.

Flint, who serves as board president said the transition in the road department would be seamless, and Cook has already met with Bean and his top assistants in preparation for the change.

“It’s been great working with Lygunnah all these years and the supervisors believe Bruce will continue to build on the good work that he did as road manager and make the county’s road and bridges even better,” Flint said.

The board president said Cook’s qualifications and professional experience made his application stand out from all the others received.

“He’s been building roads and surveying roads and doing everything associated with roads and bridges for a long time in his professional career and we think he’s the right person to keep going with what the road department has been trying to do to keep our county in the best shape possible,” Flint said.

Supervisors were impressed that Cook is a licensed professional engineer, a licensed professional surveyor, a certified commercial pesticide applicator, and a certified floodplain manager.

“There is so much more involved in that department than just roads that we needed a manager able to do a variety of jobs,” Flint said. “His knowledge of how to keep up roadways and clearing limbs and trees, and dealing with ditches and flooding problems will be a real asset.”

Board members said that Cook’s familiarity with the county and the problem areas for roads and drainage was also a plus in the hiring process. “He’s been here his whole life and understands what is needed in the different parts of Panola County, and that’s something we needed to consider, too,” Flint said.

Cook attended South Panola schools and earned an applied science degree at Northwest Mississippi Community College in 1991.

He graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor’s of science in civil engineering in 1995 and went to work for the Mississippi Department of Transportation as an engineer. He also worked as a cost estimator for Carothers Construction for a year before joining MDOT.

From 2002 until this month Cook was chief engineer at the Yazoo Mississippi Delta Levee Board where he was responsible for the coordination of all day to day operations at that agency.

“I’m really excited to be able to work in Panola County and I will do my best to improve the road system in all districts, and do it economically,” Cook said.

“I want to keep up the good work that Mr. Bean has been doing and build on what we have already in place,” Cook said. “This is where I live and raise my family and I know the road department can serve all the citizens of Panola County.”